The Psychedelic Films of James and John Whitney, 1950-72
Yantra looks like computer animation but is, in fact, the result of almost ten years of meticulous drawing and painting. To achieve a look that seemed computer generated, James Whitney used various complex methods, including solarisation, colour filters, mask techniques, optical printers, single hand drawings, multiple exposure and mirror effects. For the first time in film history, Whitney created synthesizer music for the soundtrack.
James Whitney constructed this astonishing masterpiece Yantra by punching grid patterns in 5”x7” cards with a pin, and then painting through these pinholes onto other 5”x7” cards images of rich complexity and dynamism. Yantra is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘implement’ or ‘machine’. But you do not need to know anything about esoteric philosophies to see directly, and appreciate, the majestic visual transformations that happen in the film - from gentle flickers between frames of pure white and black with no image at all, to seething masses of hundreds of points of light, each seeming to revolve in its own circuit.
You can watch Yantra here and Matrix here.